Pyro, one of the favorites in last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), captured his first stakes in more than a year when he came from off the pace and out-finished Kodiak Kowboy in the $300,000 Forego (gr. I) (VIDEO) Sept. 5 at Saratoga.
Making just his second start for his new connections, Pyro showed the same late kick he did when taking the Risen Star (gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) in spectacular fashion last spring. Second to last in a full field of 12 through a half-mile, Pyro saved ground near the inside under John Velazquez while Riley Tucker and Multidude breezed through splits of :22.48 and :45.24.
Those two still led when they turned for home in the seven-furlong contest, but there was a wall of horses chasing the frontrunners, including My Pal Charlie, who was splitting horses in upper stretch to get into the mix. But it was Kodiak Kowboy, the 3-2 favorite, and Pyro, angled five-wide for his stretch run, who loomed the biggest threats. Pyro made his wining move between horses in mid-stretch and roared past Kodiak Kowboy to get up by a half length.
The final time on a track labeled “fast” was 1:21.48. Kodiak Kowboy finished second under Gabriel Saez, a half-length in front of Ready's Echo, who closed well along the inside.
“It was awesome,” Velazquez said. “I had ridden him the time before, so I knew him a little bit, how to handle him. I was biding my time with him, just waiting for a seam to open, and when it did he was there for me. It was very nice. I saw the horse on the outside, and I heard someone coming on the inside, and it wound up being (Ready’s Echo). It worked out very well.”
Though he was sold to Darley in March of 2008, Pyro raced for Winchell Thoroughbreds and was trained by Steve Asmussen during his 3-year-old season, which included an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a victory in Northern Dancer (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, which had been his last triumph before the Forego.
The son of Pulpit—Wild Vision, by Wild Again, was moved into the barn of Saeed bin Suroor after finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and given more than nine months off. He returned to action July 29 at Saratoga, finishing second in the James Marvin Stakes.
Pyro, who races in the name of Godolphin, is now 5-5-2 from 15 starts with earnings of $1,664,673. He was bred in Kentucky by Ron Winchell and Joan Winchell.
Of Kodiak Kowboy, who won the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct earlier this season, trainer Larry Jones said: "It’s a little disappointing, but he’s running very well. He’s very consistent. We knew there were a lot of horses in here who, if they ran their “A” race, were going to be tough to beat. This wasn’t an easy spot, but grade I’s never are. We didn’t think we’d be that far back, especially given the fractions, but Pyro was farther back than we were, so maybe that’s where we needed to be.”
Pyro paid his backers $10.20, $4.60, and $3.60. Kodiak Kowboy returned $3.20 and $2.50. Ready's Echo paid $5.30. The exacta (1-2) returned $25.40 and the trifecta (1-2-3) was $141.
My Pal Charlie finished fourth, followed by Riley Tucker, True Quality, Keep Laughing, Driven by Success, Gold Trippi, Peace Chant, Multidude, and Law Enforcement.